So you’ve got an idea that you’re itching to unleash into the world and you decided to start a new business. Congratulations! Whether you’re an artist, a consultant, a restaurateur or a lawyer, plunging into the world of self-employment and entrepreneurship can be scary, but the rewards of success go far beyond the bottom line on your bank statement.
Follow this cheat sheet from A to Z and your business will be bound to thrive.
Take the plunge! The number one thing that sets successful entrepreneurs apart is that they’re willing to take risks and step into the unknown. While many people have great ideas, only the bold few act on them.
One of your first steps should be building your brand. That means choosing a business name, designing a logo and establishing the look and feel you want for your business. Doing this early on will help establish the brand identity and save a whole lot of work down the line.
Create a killer website that clearly explains who you are and what you do.
Knowing what sets you apart from the competition and making it clear to your audience gives you an edge over “the other guys.” Emphasize the specific benefits and expertise of your company and you’ll be sure to stand out!
It’s basic – Email marketing works. From your first customer to your five thousandth, keeping your contacts informed is a great way to drive recurring business and attract new customers. Track your customers’ contact information and use it to send out periodic e-newsletters. Share helpful information, coupons, seasonal items or announcements of sales.
financial matters first
From accounting and taxes to establishing a clear payment plan with your clients, take care of financial matters as you as you can. Be honest, don’t cut corners and always make sure that you and your client are on the same page. Finally, be sure to work with an expert when needed. A great accountant is almost always worth the expense.
get back to people right away
If you receive an email, respond to it quickly. Client calling you on the phone? Give them a call back as soon as you can. Being reliable and responsive will establish your credibility and impress customers. An overlooked email can easily cost you a client.
hit the pavement
Hand out business cards; introduce yourself to business owners and influential community members. Putting yourself out there is the best way to spread the word about your business.
identify your niche
It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big sea. You will find more success if you find your niche and master it, becoming the best in a particular market. You can quickly rise the ranks in a small market, whereas flooded markets with endless competitors can make for some tough swimming.
join the local Chamber of Commerce
It’s a great way to meet other business owners and learn about local advertising opportunities. Plus, it gives your business a seal of legitimacy and professionalism.
know your customers
Choose a specific target market and then take the time to learn their wants and needs. Then, make it crystal clear what added value they can receive from your product or service.
love what you do
Passion is contagious and customers will be impressed and more likely to work with when they sense that you really love what you do.
So does your spouse, your kids and your best friend. Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family who will help you through the ups and downs of your new venture. They’ll offer honest feedback, hug you after a long, bad day and be right by your side to celebrate every win.
network like crazy
Every single person you meet is a potential lead, from the flight attendant on your airplane to the person in line behind you at the bank. Converse with strangers and tell them about what you do. While some might bring you clients, others might offer brilliant ideas that can take your business in a whole new direction.
open yourself to possibilities
While you may have had one thing in mind when you just started, an entirely different direction might ultimately prove your yellow brick road to success. Be open to new ideas, new markets and new ways of doing things. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
From the tone of your emails to the design of your business cards, you want to come across as a professional in everything you do. And always, always use a spell check.
Never get stuck in the groove – even when things are working great. Always ask yourself questions and push yourself to grow.
It’s far easier to close a deal with a past customer than to start from scratch with new ones. Stay in touch with your past customers and be on the lookout for opportunities to work with them again.
Both in the real world and by using social media networks, having a large presence on social media is a great way to tap into new clients, to learn more your competitors and to gain inspiration. The more contacts you have, the more likely you are to be discovered.
teach a free class
If you have a specific area of expertise, share it with your local community. Whether at the library, in a business development center or at a school, a free class or lecture gains you exposure and establish yourself as an expert.
under promise, over-deliver
Expectations are everything and you want your customers to be overjoyed with the results of working with you. Don’t promise them something you can’t deliver on. Keep expectations reasonable and impress them at the end by over-delivering.
Forget Kim Kardashian. You want to make every customer feel like a star. Make time for their phone calls, answer their every question and cater to their whims, within reason. Happy past clients are the key to your future business.
word of mouth
Word of mouth advertising is still the most effective, which is why a VIP treatment for every customer makes a huge difference! Your customer base will grow exponentially over time if your clients were impressed with what you offered.
Be an expert at what you do. If you can’t do it well, it’s not worth going into business. The product or service you deliver should be truly excellent.
your personal integrity
You don’t need to work with every customer. You want to work with people who you know will walk away satisfied. If a client seems difficult to please or wants something that you aren’t sure you can provide, it’s better to walk away beforehand than to disappoint them in the end. Plus, you’ll earn loads of karma points for your honesty when you gently recommend they work with someone else
Much needed rest, that is. Be sure to get it and, regardless of how busy you are, don’t forget to take time away from work. Burnout is a big risk for small business owners, so be sure to give yourself the TLC you need.
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